Natural Sightings #577 - Fog Shadows.jpg

Tree shadows briefly appear on fog, as seen from Bear Valley Springs.

Toshimi Kristof took this unusual photo of tree shadows that briefly appeared on fog near her home in Bear Valley Springs.

When you first look at this photo, it doesn't even seem to make sense — how could trees cast shadows up on the clouds behind them, when the light of the setting sun itself is also behind them? And how can shadows of trees reach the clouds, which are thousands of feet away from them? It looks baffling.

But in actuality, the shadows that you see are being projected on a very thin veil of fog that is in front of the trees, between where Toshimi was standing and the trees themselves. The shadows are being cast up on the fog by those trees from the nearly parallel light of the setting sun behind them. It is a very rare phenomenon, and it doesn't last very long — the shadows didn't appear at all in a photo that Toshimi took 26 seconds earlier than this one, and they vanished soon afterward.

In a sense, the tree shadows on the fog are almost a type of primitive hologram, like a very simplified version of the ones that appeared in the first "Star Wars" movie. The curtain of mist functioned like a semi-translucent screen for the shadows to be projected onto. If the fog had been thicker, it would have obscured the trees, shadows and maybe even the sunset from Toshimi's view; if it had been fainter or absent, of course, she wouldn't have seen the shadows at all.

I've only witnessed this phenomena a few times, and it didn't include such a colorful sunset. Congratulations on this unusual image, Toshimi!

NATURAL SIGHTINGS is a regular feature of the Tehachapi News edited by Jon Hammond which showcases photos of the natural beauty that enhances the quality of life in Tehachapi. If you have a good quality image of plants, animals, insects, trees, birds, weather phenomena, etc., taken in the Tehachapi area, you may submit it to the Tehachapi News for possible publication. Submissions can be dropped by the News office in the form of a print or CD, or sent by email to: